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Preliminary reaction from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to Bill C-30

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Our Office understands the challenges faced by law enforcement and national security authorities in fighting online crime at a time of rapidly changing communications technologies and the need to modernize their tactics and tools accordingly.

We’re not necessarily opposed to legislation that modernizes police powers online – but it must demonstrably help protect the public, respect fundamental privacy principles established in Canadian law and be subject to proper oversight.

Upon a preliminary review following the tabling of Bill C-30, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner recognizes the government has made improvements to this Bill from previous iterations. On balance, however, significant privacy concerns remain.

We recognize that the government has reduced the number of data elements which could be accessed by authorities without a warrant or prior judicial authorization.  At the same time, by requiring authorities to conduct regular audits and to provide them both to the relevant Minister and oversight bodies, including our Office, this appears to help address past concerns about a lack of oversight.

On the balance however, the new Bill still contains serious privacy concerns, similar to past versions.

In particular, we are concerned about access, without a warrant, to subscriber information behind an IP address.  Since this broad power is not limited to reasonable grounds to suspect criminal activity or to a criminal investigation, it could affect any law-abiding citizen.

Going forward, we will be reviewing this Bill in full to determine:

How the Government justifies this warrantless access in a free and democratic society?;

How does “after the fact” review by ministerial and non-judicial bodies compare with “up front” oversight by the courts?;

Whether the new powers proposed by the legislation are demonstrably necessary, proportionate and effective?; and

Are there less privacy-invasive alternatives to achieve the desired outcomes?

It is through this lens that our Office will undertake a thorough review of the Bill.  We look forward to sharing our views with Parliament.

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